Lifestyle and healthy bones

It is commonly known that calcium and vitamin D are both essential parts of maintaining healthy bones. However, as with our overall health, we need to have a well balanced diet that incorporates a range of minerals, vitamins, and protein from a range of different food groups.

Meals should include a wide variety of foods from the four main groups, including fruit and vegetables; carbohydrates such as good quality bread, potatoes, pasta and cereals; milk and dairy products; and protein such as meat, fish, eggs, pulses, nuts and seeds.

This balance is so important because no single food contains all the essential nutrients the body needs to function well.

Aiming for a healthy body weight along with regular weight bearing exercise, such as walking , Pilates and Yoga important to help maintain the strength of our bones.

The strength of our bones is determined from our early years, so whatever your age or sex, it is vital to make sure that what you eat today will help to keep your skeleton strong for the future. However, for women the need is greater, as the aging effects of the loss of estrogen during the menopause puts them at greater long term risk of osteoporosis.

What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis literally means ‘porous bones’. It occurs when the struts that make up the structure within bones become thin, causing bones to become fragile and break more easily following a minor fall. These broken bones are often referred to as fragility fractures.

Although fractures can occur in different parts of the body, the wrists, hips and spine are most commonly affected. It is these broken bones or fractures which can lead to the pain associated with osteoporosis. Spinal fractures can also cause loss of height and curvature of the spine.

What causes osteoporosis?

The process of building new bone and breaking down old bone is a continuous process. Up to our mid-20s the building cells work harder, providing strength to our skeleton. From our 40s onwards, the demolition cells become more active and our bones gradually lose their density.

Estrogen is an important hormone when it comes to the health of women’s bones, and women tend to lose bone density faster in the years following the menopause when estrogen levels start to decrease.

Who is most at risk from osteoporosis?

  • menopausal women (particularly those with an early menopause or following early hysterectomy and removal of the ovaries)
  • family history of osteoporosis
  • women who have lost their periods with an eating disorder
  • women on a steroid therapy
  • smokers
  • history of a previous impact fracture.